(Stillness in the Storm Editor) Attachments can sound like things we refuse to let go of. But in the context of the following article, attachments are a psychological term for things we are designed to bond to. When we lose these essential attachments, we feel triggered because our core needs aren’t being met. Over a long enough time, if we don’t fix the situation, we can develop negative core beliefs that can cause us to make our lives even more miserable. Understanding that we have these needs, and learning how to satisfy them, is an essential aspect of human life we all should take time to understand.
When we lose our attachments, this triggers ancient defense mechanisms, which we experience as negative emotions. If left unhealed, these sour the soul, causing us to become hateful, malevolent, and destructive. We will inflict harm on ourselves and others as a way to discharge this toxic energy.
For example, when we feel abandoned, when we feel our dreams can’t be realized, when we feel the world is an unfair place, this often results in antagonistic energy, expressed outwardly as all manner of anti-social behavior. But as we’ll discover, those who can remain cheerful and happy, despite what appears to be loss of attachments, did so by reinforcing these core attachment needs through spiritual means.
The spiritual perspective helps us understand why our psychology is designed for attachment.
It has been said, that oneness is at the foundation of our reality.
If the Creator is within and around us, then surely, at the deepest parts of being, we must all be connected in some way. This cosmic insight can be understood by looking at how the biological world expresses oneness, through community, fellowship, and cooperation.
Despite appearances, all things are connected, especially living things. We call this the ecosystem or the life cycle, which speaks to the fact the food you eat, the water you drink, and the air you breath passed through many layers of living systems before you consumed them. The earth, in this sense, appears to be a kind of grand living organism that acts as a host to all other living creatures living thereon.
The cells of our body are all working together in a grand and mindboggling unity of over 30 trillion cells. These cells form communities—organs, and tissues—that also work together in harmony. When this harmony breaks down, we call this cancer or disease. The same basic theme of unity is also meant to take place in the human world of society and social interactions, although existing human culture has yet to realize the spiritual promise of global familial unity. Nevertheless, the tools we’ll use for this unity operate within us now, within the very fiber of our being.
Within our own neurology, entire systems exist to help us access and maintain attachments.
We have an attachment to the future, which we experience through the approach mechanism. That feeling you get when you’re excited and energized to do something you value is a neurological process that bathes certain parts of your brain in reward chemicals. If you don’t have a passion, if you don’t feel purpose and a drive to realize your dreams, don’t you feel uninspired, bored, and unhappy?
The fact that purpose makes us feel good and lack of purpose makes us feel bad reveals that we are indeed programmed (divinely designed) to be attached to the future, attached to a timeline where our values can be expressed.
Another attachment is social.
Entire brain centers regulate the social aspects of life, dumping pleasure hormones like oxytocin and endorphins into our brain when we’re engaging with people we value and care about. When you lose the ability to interact with those you value, this is felt as a loss of social attachment: abandonment. In everyday life, when we lose someone to death, a nasty fight, or break up with a significant other, this is a loss of social attachment, evincing negative emotions.
Lastly, one of the most important attachments, one that appears to act as a container for all of them is an attachment to an ideal self, that we are becoming better with time.
As evolving people, as entities of change, we are dynamically moving through life. But this change can either be good or not, depending on our values. When we lose the attachment to a life that allows us to feel like we are moving toward a more ideal self, where we can pursue our dreams, this feels very disempowering.
Our dreams, the things we think about that we want to realize for ourselves and others, are themselves revealing this drive for idealism. But we don’t have dreams independent of reality. Our dreams are actually a product of our environment as it makes contact with our consciousness.
Spiritually, our potential as souls begins to dawn on us through our dreams. Thus, if we feel like we’re living in a world where our dreams can’t be realized, this is itself a negative core belief that cuts us off from our attachment to an ideal life, a loss of attachment to the future. This is what I mean by the ideal self-attachment acting as a container for others. The way we maintain our attachment to an ideal self is through attaching ourselves to people we value (those who can help us realize our dreams) which is itself an attachment to an ideal future.
Suffering, in this practical sense of psychological attachments, is what happens when we don’t know how to meet these fundamental needs. And when we examine so-called prophets and mystics of old, those who seem to have transcended the suffering of life, almost all of them did so by reinforcing these core attachments, through a spiritual philosophy.
Jesus, for example, realized he was socially attached to all when he described a kingdom of heaven, wherein all people, regardless of their character, are children of the divine. Furthermore, he attached himself to an ideal future and vision of self, by pledging himself to the mission of healing the souls of others by reminding them that they too are children of the divine. In this sense, the kingdom of heaven is the recognition that all are loved by the divine and are in divine fellowship or community with all other beings.
Whether or not you believe in the claim, you should be able to see that the belief system of Jesus is itself a belief that creates almost invincible attachments. And these attachments, for Jesus, were so strong, he was able to love and forgive his enemies, even as they sought to kill him. He did not become bitter, vengeful, or hateful, and this reveals that his attachments were intact.
Again, whether or not you believe in the story of Jesus doesn’t matter. The practical fact that a spiritual philosophy can and does create unshakable attachments is proven true, across many instances of human life. This is also being recognized in science, described in a study discussing the power of spirituality to impart psychological resilience.
Given all this, forming the right attachments is the key method to a fulfilling life. Obviously, attaching ourselves in a codependent way isn’t a good thing. Nor is maintaining toxic attachments to abusive people or situations helpful. But if we don’t find a replacement, the more primitive aspects of our psychology will still be attached. This means the technique requires replacing less than ideal attachments with better ones. Arguably, the best framework for our social attachments to rest on is one founded on a truth-based, dynamic, and living spiritual philosophy.
() Attachment. You’ve heard about it right? How you and your partner can have a better, more fulfilling relationship by learning about your attachment styles and how they mesh (or don’t as the case may be).
But attachment isn’t just for the romantically involved.
Attachment affects our social and emotional wellbeing — our confidence, our ability to get on with others, even our ability to identify a career path.
How can attachment be that important?
Attachment is designed to help us survive.
It helps us relate to our caregivers and by doing so ensures that we remain in proximity to those who are able to feed, protect and soothe us. Not only that, but our attachment behavior elicits these caring behaviors in our parents and helps generate a lasting bond that influences our early development.
Infancy and Attachment
Before we are born, we are already absorbing information from our environment. Our mother’s mental state and emotional wellbeing have a big influence on our development — even at this early stage.
Obviously a mother’s physical wellbeing impacts the growing child, but if she is stressed, unsupported or anxious, this will also influence the child’s early environment through the presence of stress hormones in the blood which pass through the placental wall.
People with a history of insecure attachment will be more vulnerable to mental illness and other problems in later life.
We learn who we are through our early attachments. We also learn how to relate and what to expect of relationships. If we don’t receive adequate mirroring and attunement in infancy we don’t learn to value ourselves and in some cases, we might never learn who we are at all.
We are not born perfectly formed.
Our nervous system and our brain develop in concert with our primary caregiver (usually, but not always our mother). This relationship allows us to experience the world safely.
As we grow, we learn and explore, getting to know ourselves and our environment. This important experience-dependent development sets up structures and pathways that influence our wellbeing over the lifespan. But sometimes things don’t go so well. Our mother is stressed or unwell, anxious or unsupported. In some cases, parents might have a history of trauma that has never been resolved. These factors will all influence the attachment relationship. The more we are ignored as infants, forced into unwanted interactions or left to manage our own distress, the more we will lose ourselves.
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Babies are exquisitely sensitive to the mood and mental state of their caregivers.
A parent with unresolved trauma may unwittingly transfer the intense affect associated with the trauma through eye contact, facial expression and patterns of interaction. An infant who is being parented by someone with a history of unresolved trauma will be left at the mercy of disorganizing states. They will be far too much for the developing nervous system.
The more sensitive the child, the more they are at risk. Premature infants are especially vulnerable.
Sometimes infants and young children will learn to cope with these states by splitting off from the experience, leading to the use of dissociation as a coping mechanism later on. Because these experiences often come at a time before we have language, they are not remembered, but remain with us, affecting our sense of ourselves and our ability to relate to others. We will sometimes be left with a felt sense of ourselves as being “unlovable” and with ongoing, chronic and unconscious shame.
Although this sounds dire, reparative experiences of attachment can help us grow and resolve our trauma. These experiences can come through therapy, but they can also come through stable, intimate relationships where we can feel safely held and nurtured and experience ourselves as worthy of compassion and love, perhaps for the first time.
Stillness in the Storm Editor: Why did we post this?
Psychology is the study of the nature of mind. Philosophy is the use of that mind in life. Both are critically important to gain an understanding of as they are aspects of the self. All you do and experience will pass through these gateways of being. The preceding information provides an overview of this self-knowledge, offering points to consider that people often don’t take the time to contemplate. With the choice to gain self-awareness, one can begin to see how their being works. With the wisdom of self-awareness, one has the tools to master their being and life in general, bringing order to chaos through navigating the challenges with the capacity for right action.
Not sure how to make sense of this? Want to learn how to discern like a pro? Read this essential guide to discernment, analysis of claims, and understanding the truth in a world of deception: 4 Key Steps of Discernment – Advanced Truth-Seeking Tools.
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